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July's Arts! Alive is packed

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Remember being a kid and staring wide-eyed at one of those all-you-can eat buffets? The overwhelming, giddy-in-your-toes excitement over what to pick first? Well, this month's Arts! Alive features a spread so stocked with goodies that I can't pick just one. So let's have a taste of the highlights, shall we? And, like that kid at the buffet, we're going straight for the dessert.

First on your not-to-miss list this month is Joan Gold's intrepid exhibition at Humboldt State University's First Street Gallery. At what she calls "a joyful 80," Humboldt's premier colorist is filling the entire space. Fields of color and pattern form a dazzling parade from one end of the gallery to the other. The airy, high-ceilinged front half of the gallery presents recent works with big-city polish. Gold's paintings are given room to breathe, allowing viewers to pause upon her lush arrangements swelling with brilliant color. The other half of the gallery offers up a completely different serving of her work.

Stepping into the cozier confines of the back room delivers viewers into an Oz-like installation inspired by Gold's studio. There are no easels or paintbrushes scattered about, but dozens and dozens of Gold's colorful rectangles circle the space.

As part of her process, Gold works on many different panels of color at a time, playing around to achieve the right hue, pattern or surface. "These are not paintings," she says, "they are like toys to me." Once a toy is complete, it's pinned up on the ever-changing array of colorful papers flooding her studio walls. Eventually, some come together into a finished piece, but others never find a match. "So in this show," Gold says, "there are pieces that are 20 years old that finally found their little family,"

There's a certain sacrifice in displaying her work in this raw, unfinished state. These panels, each one more eccentric than the last, aren't meant to be evaluated, criticized or interpreted. Visitors are meant to enjoy them, to wander through them and marvel at the spectacle. Gold couldn't be more excited, saying, "It's my joy that I'm sharing!"

So where do you go after soaking up Gold's colors? Piante Gallery's exhibition of Lori Goodman's new works, Journeys, is a good choice. Goodman's sensitive sculptures, installations and wall hangings proclaim a love of paper, form and travel. One room shivers with luscious reds, flooding the walls like the royal velvet of a king's throne room. Another room drips with dangling, chunky sculptures inspired by yak butter cheese. Like sausages on a string, hand-made paper is stretched over wire armatures that blow in the wind each time a visitor enters the door. Some may see French fries, others, musical instruments. The diversity of Goodman's shapes references the natural materials used in her work, and strolling among them ignites those primal parts of our brains that connect us to the earth.

Your next Arts! Alive stop might include a pause for coffee, wine or ice cream, but keep going, there's more!

Over at Sewell Gallery fine art, two wildly different painters take the stage. Adrienne Werth's exhibit, It's Just My Nature, brings this watercolor painter's work back to the public after an extended break from painting. Thought-provoking compositions of natural materials like crabs, onions, skulls and carrots ask viewers to look anew at common items, highlighting the connectedness, and importance, of the small things we might overlook. Next to Werth's realism, guest artist Soodie Whitaker's acrylic paintings draw us into the dialogue between the world we live in and those we create in our minds. The refreshing energy of his paintings invites a closer look. Words and images splash against each other with a spirit of imagination and play.

Finally, when circling around to C Street Studios, where Linda Wise, David Hodes, Howard Emerson and Patricia Smith are featured artists for July, don't skip Mimi LaPlant's solo show at the Black Faun Gallery.

Described by Black Faun Gallery owner Keven Borque as "one of the preeminent abstract artists in the county," LaPlant is known for her bright palates and distinctively structured paintings. Borque and LaPlant hand picked works from her studio for a retrospective of LaPlant's varied images throughout the years. Many never-before-seen new works will be on display, as well. "Safe Harbor" one of LaPlant's featured paintings, exemplifies her style with a delicate balance of dark and light, archetypal outlines and a heavily layered narrative.

Be sure to tromp around Eureka's Old Town Saturday, July 5 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. to get your fill before it's over. There's something for everyone, even if all you want is dessert.

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Ken Weiderman

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